A second fiddle to Cadillac Fairview's neighbouring Eaton Centre as a Downtown Toronto retail destination, the Atrium on Bay could soon be transformed into a flashier presence on Dundas Street West. Stretching across a full city block between Yonge and Bay streets, the deceptively dense complex—which features a floor area of almost 1 million ft²—is set to be expanded and architecturally re-imagined.

Looking northwest, image via submission to the City of Toronto

Five and six-storey additions are planned for the Atrium's paired 13- and 14-storey towers, with the shorter mid-block volume also slated to be extended via a one-storey addition.

Aerial view of the existing structure, image via Google Maps

At the west end of the site, the Bay Street frontage would also be re-configured, with the west building's footprint extended to meet the sidewalk across from the Toronto Coach Terminal. Expanded lower, ground, and second floors would replace the partially exposed staircase that links the Atrium's concourse level—and the PATH—with the bus station, creating a fully enclosed connection and adding square footage. 

Bay Street frontage, existing context, image via Google Maps

Inside, the H & R REIT project would also reconfigure the second floor of the complex to further expand floor area, filling the foot of both tower atriums with additional office floor space. This would cut off the atrium spaces from the retail levels, putting a roof over the shopping space. Above, however, the glass roofs that cap the marquee atrium spaces would be retained, with the new levels wrapping around the existing skylights, preserving some indirect light below. 

The undulating east face of the east addition, image via submission to the City of Toronto

Architecturally, the Page + Steele / IBI Group-designed proposal presents an unapologetic aesthetic departure from the existing complex. Completed in 1981, the project was actually designed by the same firm—then known only as Page + Steele—now charged with expanding the complex. Undulating extrusions would cap the expanded towers, with a pair of angular red additions perched atop the shorter mid-block volume providing access to new rooftop amenity terraces.

A closer look at the west tower and mid-block addition, image via submission to the City of Toronto

While the additions would introduce highly conspicuous elements to the complex, the existing tower exteriors would by contrast be made more rectilinear. Currently defined by a series off extrusions that aesthetically divide the body of each tower into a series of bays, the redevelopment would effectively strip away the Atrium on Bay's existing architectural context in favour of a new aesthetic, while removing the signature atriums from public access.

Looking up one of the two atriums, image by UT Forum contributor Kurtis Chen

The new Minor Variance Application—which arguably proposes more than a 'minor' change—to the Committee of Adjustment (CoA), advances an expansion plan that was provisionally tabled to the City of Toronto in 2011, with a zoning amendment approving more architecturally restrained five-storey additions approved in 2014. The current proposal is set to be reviewed by the CoA in July. So far, the project has been met with a largely negative reception on the UT Forum. 

The east tower's south elevation, image via submission to the City of Toronto

We will keep you updated as the project advances through the planning process, and more information becomes available. To learn more, make sure to check out our newly established dataBase file, linked below. Want to share your thoughts? Leave a comment on the space on this page, or join the ongoing conversation in our Forum. 

Related Companies:  H&R REIT, Jablonsky, Ast and Partners, Page + Steele / IBI Group Architects